“Captain Fantastic”

Ben Cash and his six children are forced to revisit society to attend their mother’s funeral and steal her body to “free” her from its wooden entrapment (casket) as her dying wishes stated. Despite their intensive physical training and New Age hippie philosophies taught by their father, they were unprepared for the real world.

Captain Fantastic is mainly about extremes: in love, in our ideals, in the way we choose to live. The title itself is a little off-put; I originally assumed there was something fantastical about the Ben Cash character, played by Viggo Mortensen, and that we had maybe yet another superhero spin-off on our hands. Actually, Ben is just a dad who loves his family more than life itself. He believed that there is more value to solitude and in learning basic survival skills in the wilderness rather than being “brainwashed” in a government-funded classroom. In other words, he severely sheltered his kids. I can’t say that I blame him. He believes the world is tainted and that the training and education he and his wife could provide for his children is of far more value.

Mortensen’s performance truly is supernatural; his passion for the role shows, and the colorful personality he portrays is infectious. Up until about the very end of the movie, he has you convinced that maybe he’s not so crazy in this way of thinking. We move so fast and are so easily distracted that we forget to take in those solitary moments which help us grow. Every morning, he and his kids are up, running through the forest, hunting, learning how to fight, and in the evenings they’re reading and singing songs by campfire. Each kid is taught to have an educated opinion, to back it up with real facts, and to use their words to describe how something made them feel. When he asks one of them to describe what the book she’s reading is about and she replies with “It’s interesting” he tells her, “‘Interesting’ is a non-word.”

Although feral living isn’t necessarily the answer to isolating ourselves from the pollution of the world, not every American struggles with living with tiny screens in front of our faces 24/7, despite how the movie makes it seem, and not every kid from this generation is a semi-functioning little asshole. Sure seems like it sometimes though. There aren’t moments in which a character flat-out says everyone else is stupid, but it’s implied a few times that the way most Americans live is toxic. This is true. Partially.

There are moments when Mortensen is so convincing that I start to believe he actually lives this way in real life. He’s much too comfortable. More specifically in his nude scene in which he stands outside their camper in all his heavenly glory, eating, with the neighbors gawking. The scene caught me so off-guard, but he looked so relaxed that he actually made me feel more relaxed somehow..?? How does this happen. He rightly deserved his nomination for Best Actor. He is one of the most underrated actors, typically pushing himself in drama roles that most other well-known actors wouldn’t dare be seen in. George Mackay whom plays the oldest son, Bo, deserved a Best Supporting Actor nomination as well, but he unjustly wasn’t given one. He masters the “sheltered homeschooled kid” stereotype very well. Bo is the most obedient, while encouraging his younger siblings to listen to their dad without question, but Bo has his own ambitions; he receives acceptance letters to all of the major colleges in the U.S., but struggles to find the right time to tell his dad because he knows his dad will disapprove.

[SPOILERS AHEAD] There’s happy endings for all of the characters, save for the grandparents. The children leave their grandparents’ house to help Ben “rescue” the mother’s body and are able to cremate her, as per her wishes, while dancing and singing to her favorite song, “Sweet Child of Mine”. Bo is able to go to college, and sets off to travel the world first. The final scene shows the children and their dad preparing and eating breakfast with vegetables and natural foods they grew and farmed themselves. The kids are still wearing mostly strange clothes, but their hair are combed and cut and they don’t look as wild anymore. Ben tells them they have 15 minutes before the school bus was going to pick them up, and for a few more minutes they sit and read in silence at the table. A lot has changed. They’ve learned to adapt just enough, including Ben, but they still carry on living as they know how with the traditions that were instilled in them by their father.

The movie has highs and lows in tone, ranging from pure happiness, to sporadic melancholic moments to seriousness. I would say that if you’re a movie-goer that is typically turned off by indie drama — that is, your idea of “good writing” is when the actors verbalize each emotion following a brash action in order to justify to the audience that what the character is doing is what everyone would do in that situation — then, I would advise you not to see Captain Fantastic. It may just not be for you. But, if you’re like me, and can appreciate a movie where you have to read between the lines a little and can appreciate an interesting story, then you’ll enjoy it.

A: Captain Fantastic accomplishes what so many indie films fail to do: it instructs us to live and love fully without hiding behind endless and obscure shots of trees and water. I’m talking to you, Terrence Malick.

“La La Land”

Had I missed out on seeing La La Land, due to its very limited release, I would have been devastated. I typically try to stay far away from a lot of the publicity that comes and goes with upcoming movies, for fear that something spoils my expectations or that a cynical critic destroys my excitement for seeing the film; however, I had heard a lot of positive feedback about this one (thanks again, Facebook). I was surprised only because I don’t know a lot of people that are as “into” musicals anymore. It doesn’t take much to convince me to see a new musical, on the other hand, especially with such a great cast list as this. I even checked out the soundtrack on Spotify beforehand in order to get an idea of what I should expect as far as the music goes. Already, I was in love.

Film novice, Damien Chazelle, is the brilliance behind La La Land, paired again with Justin Hurwitz, the creator of the impressive score. Both worked together on Chazelle’s previous movie that most people recognize his name from: Whiplash. Though my movie-critiquing eyes were young and underdeveloped when I first saw Whiplash, I could tell there was something unique and fascinating about this director’s style that I had never seen before. Like his work strongly suggests, Chazelle had a history with music in his early career, and has since then married his love for music and filmmaking in each of the movies he’s directed and written for. I can only hope that he continues on this path because it’s obviously working for him. [Stay the hell away, Disney.]

The film doesn’t completely play out like you’d expect — the ending has a twist — but, in addition to a great score and a match made in the starry heavens, I really enjoyed the writing and dialogue. Okay, I loved everything about it. And, I’d see it again if I could! There, I admit it! La La Land‘s story is simple — about a jazz pianist and an aspiring actress who meet and meet again and then fall in love, all while trying to make their dreams come true — which is why the loud pops of color and dramatic sets were completely necessary and welcomed for this type of movie. My senses were on a serious high throughout. To be completely blunt, I had to pee extremely bad right at about a third of the way in, but I refused to miss a second — I was enjoying it so much. Not the bladder issues, the movie.

The opening number (“Another Day of Sun”) was set in modern Southern California during winter, but since winter there might as well be summer, everyone was in bright royal blues, reds, and pinks, skirts and shorts, and tank-tops. The use of specific colors were a major factor in making this movie, you could tell. I wanted to kiss the costume designers. Everyone danced atop cars and trucks on a bridge, and this scene had the look and feel of a traditional play. The following scenes transitioned in a way that was noticeable, yet subtle, as if they quickly “cleared the set” while we weren’t looking; each scene had a completely different feel/tone than the one before it. If plays are your thing, you’ll find this refreshing and actually appreciate it.

The entire movie seeped with a retro style through the strategic use of colors, outfits, music, and especially lighting. Chazelle continuously used spotlight on his characters, therefore creating dreamy and noir-like scenes here and there. The scene when Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) went on their date and danced in the Griffith Observatory reminded me of the “love” scene between Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds in Singing in the Rain — it was romantic, pretty, and made very little sense, but it was symbolic of finding your once-in-lifetime love.

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Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have such chemistry, and I always enjoy watching them in movies together. I feel like I’m watching two best friends that have known each other half of their lives. Everything looks natural between them. J.K. Simmons also makes a memorable appearance as Bill, a restaurant owner who fires Sebastian for not following his set list. He loves playing a hard-ass, doesn’t he?

There was just enough dialogue that you weren’t bored, but there was a moment somewhere in the movie that I felt like the music had trailed off for a while. This was literally my only negative remark. I’m not going to even call it a complaint because it was so minor and it didn’t bother me enough to warrant such a negative reaction. Even though the singing wasn’t exactly perfect, there was something pure about it. It was raw, beautiful, and it might as well have been a live performance.

A+ because that’s what La La Land deserves. If you need me, I’ll be over here humming.

“Arrival”

It’s refreshing to see a thought-provoking and worldly perspective on a new sci-fi movie, rather than the typical oh-no-aliens-are-invading-Earth-again-so-we-must-destroy-them plot-line, filled with dialogic nonsense and cheap action sequences. If you’re looking for a movie with purpose and originality, you need to see Arrival; it has everything a sci-fi movie needs and should have to make it great, and yet, it still makes sense — even in such confusing and ugly times as these.

Arrival, based on Ted Chiang’s short story “Story of Your Life”, felt a bit like a requiem in a dream — solemn and peaceful, poignant and beautiful — and, at some point you begin to wonder which is the right way up and which is down, much like the majority of its Director, Denis Villeneuve’s track-record. I didn’t particularly like the plot development in Sicario, but I’ll admit it was beautifully shot and it was interesting — I wanted to love it because everyone else seemed to. The first of his films I had seen was Prisoners, a mystery thriller starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, so I had a pretty good first impression of Villeneuve’s work. He likes to create movies with dark elements juxtaposed with very extreme and meaningful moments caked in subtlety. Arrival also accomplishes this; however, it is also filled with hope and beauty. Its message was that all the pain endured in life will be worth it in the end and that without the painful moments we would not be able to appreciate the beautiful moments as well. There were very “slow” moments, but they never felt dull to me when, in fact, they felt necessary in order to build tension within the scene. I’m not much of a patient person when it comes to most things in general, but if I could handle Peter Jackson’s escalator-like style of shooting shots, then long pauses in movie scenes don’t really bother me. Thankfully, though, there were no slow-motion “filler” scenes in Arrival and no nature-porn shots much like in Terrence Malick’s movies. *snooze* I even tried to Google an appropriate gif from The Tree of Life to mockingly apply here, but all I could find was this shit:

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Though most of the time, if you’re smarter than you look and you PAY ATTENTION you will be able to understand what’s going on this movie; it’s not overly complicated and everything ties together into a pretty little bow in the end. In a way.

Here’s where I talk about some spoilers, so if you still haven’t seen the movie turn away now while you still have the chance! This movie is about a linguist professor, Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) whom is recruited by the military to lead a team to try to communicate with the aliens that have landed on Earth. We don’t know very much about Louise other than what we learn in what seems to be frequent flashbacks, leading us to believe that she was possibly married once, but her husband left her, and that she had a daughter that became very ill and passed away. Before the aliens, Louise was really on her own, so nothing was “tying her down” to the past.

There are 12 different locations around the world that these spaceships or “shells” have landed, and one of them being Montana where Louise and Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) are stationed to work. Louise and Ian work [quickly] together to build a language foundation with the aliens, later referred to as Heptapods, but the plot thickens when Louise and Ian are rushed to learn the aliens’ purpose on Earth before the other nations (ahem, China) get impatient and declare war on the aliens out of pure fear. To make matters worse, the other nations become non-communicative and go “offline” because that is going to make everything better, right?  Louise’s flashbacks — or what is starting to look more like visions — become more frequent, especially when she’s around Ian (hmm, strange), so she takes it upon herself to visit their Heptapods they’ve named Abbott and Costello in order to “pop the big question”: Why are you here. As if they knew she was coming, a mini shell picks her up in the field, several yards from the military base, and transports her inside of the larger shell behind the glass barrier she and Ian have been communicating through with the aliens. Until now, we’ve actually only seen part of the Heptapods. What I thought was just their whole octopus-looking bodies was actually only the bottom half of their bodies. In this scene, everything is still and noiseless, and where Louise is now looks heavenly — literally. We see how much Louise has learned of their language, but is still left confused due to the language barrier.

Shortly after, when time is running out and all the crap is about to hit the fan, Louise has another flashback — a very powerful one too — in which she makes a breakthrough. Louise understands the aliens’ universal language.

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And, what she’s been having are not intense flashbacks, but actually visions of the future! The daughter she’s been seeing, the pain, the joy, none of it has happened yet. She now sees time as the aliens see it — nonlinear. With this epiphany, Louise manages to change Chinese’s General Shang’s (Tzi Ma) mind about the aliens’ agenda, and he withdraws his military from attacking. When the chaos subsides, Ian then reveals his love for Louise, and she has another vision that reveals Ian is, in fact, her future husband and future father to the little girl. Even though, she knows he will leave her and she knows their daughter will die, she would rather love and live with the pain than not at all.

Perhaps now considered as one of her best roles, Amy Adams does a fantastic job and she doesn’t overdo it when the camera leans in again and again for a close-up. I absolutely loved her in this. And, Jeremy Renner was great too. It may be a stretch, but not unlikely, to say that he represented the lightheartedness and hope in her character’s life.

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I was worried that I would be disappointed with how the aliens looked, and I almost was. Like I mentioned before, I thought the aliens looked like octopuses, what with their tentacles or arms and the “ink” they squirted out from them to communicate. I didn’t think it was very original until I saw their entire bodies. Sci-fi movies are running out of new ways to create ideas of what aliens might actually look like, so I applauded Villeneuve and his team for coming up with something unique and brooding.

What made Arrival even more captivating was that it wasn’t just about aliens landing on Earth; it was really about humanity. If you knew your future would you change anything? Or would you experience the love and the loss?

A+: I had no complaints with the film. Actually, I want to go back and watch it — not because I missed something or to gain more ideas — but just to be able to relive it.

“Doctor Strange”

Until recently, Marvel hasn’t had a lot of respect for their stories and, frankly, I never cared about the movies they were putting out. A lot of others I know had the same consensus. My most recent favorites in the MCU have been most of the Avengers movies, Guardians of the Galaxy (and, I’m going go to go ahead and predict that Guardians Vol. 2 is going to be spectacular), and now Doctor Strange.

I’m going to preface by saying that I’m SO GLAD I did my research before seeing this movie. I had never heard of the character until now. (I recommend doing what I did and listening to Major Spoilers’ Geek History of Doctor Strange. It’ll give you the groundwork to understanding his backstory and the whole point of the comic.) I don’t really think the movie was that hard to follow, but if you’re like me and you’re not a comic book reader, then it always helps to do the research when going to see these movies so that you are on the same page as everyone else. And, you can make valid arguments as to why people are wrong. Another good tip I got from Major Spoilers’ podcast was: “Don’t try to understand the ‘magic garble-dee-gook’. It doesn’t make sense. Most of the time, the confusing words and the magic have no real meaning — it’s just words.” Knowing this, I was able to enjoy the movie without hurting my brain, trying to understand what the heck everything meant.

Plot Short Version (contains spoilers): Doctor Strange was directed by Scott Derrickson, previously known for directing thrillers like Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and is set in present day. Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is presented as a very successful and rigid neurosurgeon (like every other surgeon in the known ‘verse) who favors a nurse named Christine Palmer, played by Rachel McAdams. We see a lot of emphasis on Strange’s hands in the beginning, obviously pointing out that his hands are his livelihood and that something bad is about to happen, until a nearly fatal and completely career-ending car crash damages the nerves in his hands forever. In a vain attempt to save his hands and his pride, Strange spends every penny he has on procedures and specialists; however, the damage is irreversible. By this point, he’s convinced that he’s failed, and yet, he is still the victim. Strange gets wind of a previous paraplegic patient miraculously able to walk again, fully healed, so he finds him and learns that he needs to visit a “teacher”/”healer” in order to fix his hands. Strange leaves everything and everyone behind, including Christine, to travel to Kamar-Taj. Here, he meets The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), an ageless sorceress who is, in fact, the Sorcerer Supreme, and Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a sorcerer. They reluctantly let Strange in, despite his arrogance.

The Ancient One shows Strange the Mirror Dimension, the multiverse, and teaches him sorcery. He actually has a hard time “nailing down the whole magic thing” for a while, as he’s unable to suppress his ego. Soon, Strange encounters the evil sorcerer, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) who is trying to become ultra-powerful under the leadership of Dormammu of the Dark Dimension. Together, they plan to take over the world pretty much. Here, the Cloak of Levitation surfaces and chooses Strange. I imagine the Cloak to be more prevalent in the future Strange movies because there wasn’t a whole lot to be said for it this time. To make a longer story short, Strange — who basically took it upon himself to hold onto the Eye of Agamotto (and, come to find out, is actually one of the Infinity Stones!!), which can bend and turn back time — creates an infinite time loop of the same moment between he and Dormammu forever unless Dormammu leaves Earth. Dormammu finally agrees and takes Kaecilius with him.

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The original comic-book version of Dormammu. So glad they came up with a different version for the movie. Side note: Derrickson used Benedict C.’s facial capture for Dormammu! #legit

I expected Cumberbatch to own the role just like he does in everything else he’s in, and that’s exactly what he does. I half-way expected him to declare “NOW, SHALL WE BEGIN” with that booming voice of his. Sadly, it didn’t happen. But, he did leave us with a quote that was just as impactful: “What was in that tea?” I was actually quite happy with the rest of the cast too, but they weren’t nearly as moving. The characters, aside from Strange, were pretty surface-level without a lot of depth to them, but I’m hoping that there will be a little more character development in the next film. I don’t think that each character needed their own, personal introduction and backstory in this movie because that would have been a lot of “filler” information, but it would’ve helped the audience understand why Kaecilius is mostly crazy and why The Ancient One is so…stiff. Yeah, she was practically a god, but was she dead too?

The best part about the story of Doctor Strange is that it’s trippy; the movie is so thematically rich with visual kaleidoscopic and psychedelic imagery, paired with a really good soundtrack (thanks to the amazing Michael Giacchino). It was righteous and it was displayed very well. Additionally, what made the comic so interesting was that it was created in the 60’s, so the demographic that it attracted were usually inebriated youngin’s. The use of the trippy imagery was used by Marvel to invoke the perception of what magic would look like. Makes sense, right? I never, ever say this but I wished I had watched this film in IMAX. It would have made the experience that much more intense. I’m sure drugs would have done the same thing, but what can ya do?

A+:  Doctor Strange follows Marvel’s usual format of superhero action and humor, but it also brings new [visual] elements that make this addition to the MCU more memorable. The creative department got to flex its muscles more-so this time.

Source: Because I’m not a comic geek, I didn’t catch a lot of the Easter eggs shown in the movie, but I was lucky enough to read about them on IGN. To be in the know and if you want to know what to look for in the next few Marvel movies, you can read about more of them here:  https://goo.gl/sZla77

“The Accountant”

If you asked me what I thought of Ben Affleck four years ago I would have given you this look (and, I did on many occasions give people this look in reference to him):

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But, here lately he’s shifted my grimace into something more like this:

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And, he’s gotten a lot of flak over the years, specifically with films like Gigli and Jersey Girl. (I suggest staying away from rom-coms, Ben.) But, with age comes beauty and experience; he’s had plenty of time to gear up for bigger and more intensive roles, like as Batman and my personal favorite: the lead character Nick Dunne in Gone Girl. (He does a great job at looking fussy.) Everyone is still skeptical though — actively waiting for him to screw up again — even with his most recent film he’s starred in, The Accountant, but Affleck once again proves himself worthy of the $30 it takes for you to see a movie and eat some popcorn.

Despite the critical consensus, The Accountant flowed well from start to finish; it paced steadily, starting from present day, where older Christian Wolff is actively shooting bad guys in the forehead, to Christian’s childhood and then back to present again, etc. Most non-linear narratives screw this type of film-making up, combining too many plots into one and giving the audience an overload of information; however, I was impressed with Director Gavin O’Connor’s style of story-telling, especially since I was unfamiliar with his directing style beforehand. This type of movie could have easily followed the rubric for a typical action-thriller with a predictable lead, but its dark humor and nuances in body language and positioning within scenes made it enthralling to watch.

The plot for The Accountant is graciously laid out for us really in the first 30 minutes, portrayed as a “backwards puzzle”, figuratively and quite literally. Young Christian Wolff, whom is visiting the Harbor Neuroscience Institute in New Hampshire with his parents, is putting a puzzle together on the table in the other room, but the puzzle is upside down. It’s obvious that Christian has a highly functioning form of autism.

Flash forward to older Christian who is a mathematics genius, working as a freelance accountant for some of the most dangerous criminals. He’s constantly referred to as “The Accountant” much like “Batman” or “Daredevil” are referred to by their aliases rather than their real names by everyone else in the movie. Raymond King (J.K. Simmons), the director of financial crimes of the Department of the Treasury, is actually hunting down Christian Wolff, along with the help of a rookie analyst, Marybeth Medina who is played by Cynthia Addai-Robinson. There’s no real reason her character is relevant to the plot, to be honest. By the time she figures everything out — and I say ‘figuring out’, but I actually mean she’s been thrown every bone in the bag to try to figure out this mystery — it’s a moot point. Her character was unnecessary and my only real complaint to the film.

Christian’s life lacks color and stimulant, obviously due to his disorder and his sensory sensitivity, but the shots are still beautiful nonetheless. O’Connor’s use of irony and dry humor within scenes were enough to keep me interested. For instance, there was a scene when Christian goes to visit a new and seemingly legitimate client called Living Robotics, run by CEO Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow). Christian meets Lamar outside of one of the labs, but is actually standing in front of a Living Robotics poster in which there are two hands featured, one real human hand with the index finger touching the index finger of a robotic hand. Ironically, Lamar greeted him in front of the living hand while Christian stood awkwardly in front of the robotic hand. You could say that I’m grasping at straws, but it was very subtle queues like this within shot to shot that I just got a kick out of. Other moments leaning more towards a form of product placement if you think about it was the collection of Action Comics stashed in Christian’s trailer with his valuables. I had to giggle.

I wasn’t sure that I would even see the need for Anna Kendrick‘s character, Dana Cummings, and I think it was such a general role that any other actress would have done fine in, but she’s one of my favorites so I was fine with this. The age gap between Dana and Christian was noticeable, but not distracting and still believable.

By far the best scenes of the movie, however, were Affleck’s fight scenes. God, I could watch that man wrestle someone to the ground and beat ’em to a pulp all day. He really takes his roles seriously and it shows.

A: Although the plot is pretty straight-and-narrow, and at times predictable, this doesn’t take away from its level of impact; the movie makes up for it with humor, simplicity, and adrenaline-infused action. The Accountant is one of the better movies of 2016, and I left the theatre with this face:

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“Jason Bourne”

Unashamedly, I’m a Bourne fan. Always have been. And, even though all Bourne fans knew this addition to the franchise wouldn’t hold a candle to the first three movies, it still happened and it was still the Bourne we remember — even if he doesn’t.

Bourne Ultimatum seemed to close out  the series pretty well, with Bourne being supposedly shot dead and floating somewhere in the East River; however, the story continues now in Jason Bourne with him being forced to come out of hiding because he’s starting to uncover more truths about his past with the help of Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), former CIA operative. Was this new movie necessary? Not really, but it’s hard to listen to our heads that are yelling at us, “No!” when our hearts are telling us, “Yes!! More JB!” Granted, there’s plenty of room for growth for the series, being that there are now 13 books written about JB’s journey. The story of Jason Bourne/David Webb has proven to have great potential and will probably live on for a while, despite what may be Director Paul Greengrass’ wishes. “I hope the franchise lives on, because I’ve got immense affection for it,” he stated to Lorne Manly from The New York Times, “…I’m not even going to think about it for some years.”

The premise is revealed within the first 30 to 45 minutes of the film and, honestly, I was fine with that. They gave me all I needed to know regarding JB’s mindset and where he’s headed (the borders of Berlin, London, and even Las Vegas) this time. Nine years since Ultimatum, Nicky now works “underground” in a hacktivist group, led by a man who plans on exposing the CIA. She then hacks into its database, downloading everything on Black Ops including information on the Treadstone program that alters what JB knows about his past thus far. Eventually and just one or two quick shots later, Nicky finds Bourne in Greece– he’s currently in hiding, making a living in illegal street-fighting. Meanwhile, head of CIA cyber obs division, Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) is alerted of the breach unbelievably fast and informs CIA Director Robert Dewey, played by Tommy Lee Jones. Naturally, they work to bring Bourne in, but preferably take him down.

Bourne learns about a new program formed by the CIA called “Ironhand”, described at least twice on different occasions as “worse than Snowden”. (I’m thinking that this nugget of information is supposed to prove worthiness for this new Bourne flick because it was announced subtly yet still noticeably.) Oh, and in addition to the CIA hunting down Bourne, there’s also a character who we know only as Asset (Vincent Cassel) with a personal vendetta against him as well. The CIA is also in cahoots with a company called Deep Dream that’s a bit random too. No one knows what exactly it does and how, but it’s threatening to break ties with the CIA, and it continues to shed light on the issue of public safety versus privacy issues — a very common “Bournesque” quality used in daresay all the films.

Although the plot sounds like it would actually turn you off, the pacing in Bourne films is always done really well — you’re escorted from scene to scene quickly, but the information isn’t overwhelming or incomprehensible — and it’s the choreography of the action scenes and camera angles that make these movies a joyous roller-coaster ride.

A: A beefed-up Matt Damon, unrealistic — but who really cares and who’s counting — car chases involving a SWAT car bulldozing its way through the Vegas Strip like Moses parting the Red Sea, new and old faces, and face-on-fist action scenes are all the elements that make up for the lack of substance in Jason Bourne.

“Suicide Squad”

Following the Death of Superman, the world — more specifically, the government — is faced with settling for a new kind of hero. You know, a hero that won’t cost much and one that won’t be missed if they are dead. Sounds like a decent story, no? Sounds like DC could do a lot with this concept? I thought so too, but instead, Suicide Squad soon proved to be all bark and no bite.

Suicide Squad was teased to us months in advance as being something similar to DC’s version of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: a movie with a memorable pre-released soundtrack, funny comeback-lines, powerful pops of color and perspective in cinematography, and lovable — and sometimes loathsome — characters. Oh yeah, and a welcomed possibility of a sequel. However, the film failed to accomplish a few things, but most importantly, it failed to provide direction. And, I have loved most of Director and Writer David Ayer’s previous films (Fury, End of Watch), but it just seemed like he was lost in the superhero world here.

The first hour of the film was dedicated to introductions. I felt like I was at an AA meeting where I was forced to meet every naysayer and possible former criminal in the room and then I had to introduce myself and figure out how I stack up to these “bad guys”. In case you’re unfamiliar with who makes up the Squad and you haven’t seen the movie yet with every back-story panned out for you, here’s a list and my first impression of the character:

  • Deadshot (Will Smith): “The hitman” who basically struggles with the thirst for blood and his duty to his daughter whom he loves more than anyone and everything. It’s what you’d expect — Will Smith being Will Smith in a rather tight-fitted suit.
  • Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie): Probably the best thing about the entire film; I would daresay she was the most anticipated. Harley Quinn is the perfect amount of crazy, fueled by her toxic love and obsession for The Joker (Jared Leto).
  • Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney): Not much is really told to us about Boomerang, except that he’s somewhat dangerous, he’s Australian, and that he has some ties to The Flash. Being in one of the stronger comedic roles, you can’t help but tolerate him.
  • Diablo (Jay Hernandez): You know he can emit fire from his body and that it can get out of control and you know that he represses the memory of the death of his family and that’s pretty much it. He’s one of the most influential characters, but probably the most boring as well.
  • Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje): He’s basically a human with a rare skin disorder, but he’s a “monster” nonetheless. We don’t know how he got this way or where exactly he came from, but he’s just…there.
  • June Moon/Enchantress (Cara Delevingne): Perhaps one of the more impressive of the stories was hers, as she’s an archaeologist possessed by an ancient, evil tribal goddess. There’s plenty of screen-time for her, but her purpose gets a little clouded when she becomes part of the team, but soon becomes the problem.
  • Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman): He’s recruited to lead the Suicide Squad and is ironically in love with June Moon. His character is pretty transparent, but I suppose he gets the job done.

Others include the ruthless Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), appointed by the U.S. government to create a task-force to counter the Justice League in the event that they go rogue. Viola Davis is perfect for the role and her character makes the most sense in this senseless tale; however, we don’t know much about her except for what we’re given at face-value. Also, my biggest complaint was that there wasn’t enough Joker as promised; many of his scenes didn’t make the final cut. I speculate it was because the staff worried about the kind of feedback they would get since everyone knows Heath Ledger set the bar so high for that role. Leto portrayed The Joker as a flamboyant mobster who runs the town and its criminals. I’m interested to see what else he does with the character even if that means there’s more Suicide Squad to come.

C+: The action scenes — the few that there were — were a blur and the dialogue and story-telling could have been demonstrated better. For what it was, the film was just O.K. but I wished it were something else entirely.

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